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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Guest Post- Verne Ross

(Verne Ross-Photo By Christine McFarlane)

Verne Ross is from Cote First Nation in Saskatchewan and he belongs to the Saulteaux Nation. His Anishnaabe name is Mino Giizgaad Ginaajwi Bineshii. He graduated from the University of Toronto with an Honours B.A, and is now a MSW Candidate from OISE at the University of Toronto.

This story is a children's story that is currently part of a larger work in progress.

The Willies:
By Verne Ross

It was the early part of a cold winter morning I woke up needing to “pee”.  Sleepily I tried to convince myself that I could wait it out, but once I started to squirm around under my covers I knew I would have to get up.

The house I was living in had an eerie presence, or so I thought. The house did not have an inside toilet.  Instead you had to go outside to a little house called an outhouse. This is where you had to pee. That was the part I hated the most.

I was always afraid to go outside when it got dark out. I imagined the ‘bogey man’ was waiting outside to get me. I was afraid of this, even if I did know that he didn’t really exist. The bogey man always controlled my mind, and it indeed made me afraid.

I looked around the room to see if anyone else was moving, but everyone was fast asleep.  I thought about asking my Aunt to come with me to the outhouse, but I knew she was not feeling well, so I did not want to disturb her sleep. I could not wake up any of my older cousins because I knew that I would run the risk of being made fun of. This meant I was on my own.

I slowly put on my brown checker coat, and my black winter boots and headed towards the door. I first had to pull out the knives from the door frame that my uncle used to keep the door locked. To me, it was cheap security, like knives in the doorframe really felt safe. After I took the knives out, I slowly opened the creaking door and took a peek outside.

Brr….. It was sure cold out there. I could feel the cold air hit  as the front door opened. When I stepped outside, Duke, our German shepherd came out of his doghouse. I could tell he was glad to see me. I felt badly for Duke because he was not allowed to come into the house when it was cold like this. Duke was not even allowed to sleep on the porch. If it was not for his thick dark brown fur coat, I am sure Duke would have frozen to death.

As I walked with Duke towards the outhouse, I stopped to look around. I noticed the whole village was silent. I was hoping that Duke would not bark because if he did, that meant things were not safe and  I would have to high tail it back to the house.
I was always told that dogs could see things that we (humans) could normally not see. I believed it because I knew that Duke would not bark for nothing. Sometimes he would bark and I would have to tell him to keep quiet! Duke was my “be on the alert” button, especially on night trips to the outhouse.

I loved Duke, he made me feel so safe. I was finally at the outhouse, and peeing, when all of a sudden I head Duke start growling outside of the outhouse door.  I asked him

“Boy, what do you hear?”

As I sat there peeing, I started to get more nervous. The more nervous I was, the more I peed. I heard Duke growling again, and then there was silence. Duke was no longer outside of the outhouse. He had run back to his dog house.

I found myself alone and I could feel the silence crowd in on me. I started to get even more scared because I did not know what was outside of the hothouse and Duke had run off. Then I heard the frozen ground crunching. The bogey man was there! I tried to call for Duke, but he didn’t respond. I remember saying to myself

“this is the end for me. The bogey man is going to take me away.”

I decided to call out one more time for Duke. This time he responded and boy was I glad! He came back to where I was. As soon as I heard him, I stepped outside the outhouse and nervously knelt down to hug him. I noticed again, the silence that surrounded me. I wanted to get back to my house and no longer think about the sounds I heard outside the outhouse. All I knew was that the crunching of the snow outside of the outhouse did not sound like a person. I started to make my way back to the house and I took my time going back.

When I reached my front door step, Duke went to his dog house. I looked back at the outhouse one more time. No one was around. The only thing I could see was my own breath sending smoke signals into the air. It was time to get back inside. I tried to be quiet, but my Aunt had heard me come in.

 She said

 “what were you doing out in the cold night?”

I said to her, I needed to go to the outhouse.  I was so cold I was answering her in a language that was hard for her to understand.  I was talking a cold language.  I began to tell my Aunt what I heard at the outhouse and all she said to me was that I was not to ever go outside alone at night.  After when she said that to me I was spooked even more.  My Aunt told me to get to bed and cover up and go to sleep. 

That same day later in the morning I was back outside playing because there was no school. Apparently when the temperatures drop, the buses cannot run properly. I did not mind this at all. This gave me the opportunity to go and see my friends. I met up with Ernie, who was one of my best friends. We decided to go sliding because that was where many of the other children were. We had to dress warm for sliding or else you could freeze in no time. To have frostbite on your ears is not pleasant. For sure, my Aunt would be mad at me for not wearing proper clothing. In fact, I knew she would stop me from going sliding. Before I left home, my Aunt said

"You must be home before its dark"

She said it looked like it wanted to snow, so I could not be gone long.

While I was walking with Ernie, I decided to tell him what happened in the early morning. After I told him, he told me that it must have been the ghost of William. I asked him, who was he? There was a pause and silence. Finally Ernie told me he was not allowed to talk about him and that he was dead. I said to Ernie that, that was ridiculous. Who was he anyways?

“Come on tell me Ernie I need to know”

Then he finally gave in.  He told me that William had been found frozen to death when he went missing in bad weather. The whole village had gone out looking for him but he was not to be found. This gave me the chills. Ernie told me that William was around our age and that he was always going away from home.

By this time we had arrived at the hill so we started to get the toboggan ready.  I soon forgot what we were talking about. I was having so much fun. I did not realize that the time was starting to pass by fast. I did notice that bad weather was moving in on us. I told Ernie we had better go home before it got any worse. Ernie said not to worry because we would go soon. He told me to hang on and that he wanted to go down the hill just one more time. I said just one more and that we better get going or else my Aunt was going to kill me.

I was getting tired and hungry but Ernie was so full of energy that I could figure out where he got all his energy from. When we arrived at the top of the hill for our final run, Ernie positioned the toboggan and told me to get on first. Before I got in, I noticed that the wind was picking up and I was getting nervous.

I told Ernie,

“let’s get going”,

but the only answer I could hear was Ernie, laughing and hollering.  While he was
doing that I was getting a snow wash job on my face.  It was too bad I did not
have a pair of windshield wipers on my glasses.  When we arrived at the bottom
of the hill I noticed that the wind was picking up even more and that it was
getting near dark.  I said to myself, “Oh no”.

As I watched the sun slowly going down I grabbed the toboggan and started heading home.  It started to snow hard and the wind was starting to blow more.  I told Ernie that we better hurry up.  We both started walking faster pulling the toboggan but the wind was getting the best of us.  It became a tough job pulling the toboggan.  Ernie was telling me he had never seen such bad weather come so fast.  I noticed that Ernie was getting scared so I told him we must keep moving.  The weather was starting to get really cold and I was starting to get really tired.  I told Ernie that we must ditch the toboggan and come back for it later.  He told me I was crazy to do that.  It took me awhile to convince him that our lives were far more important than that old toboggan.  At this point Ernie had no choice and he agreed to leave the toboggan behind.

By this time we had wasted valuable time.  As the weather got progressively worse Ernie and I got colder, so I told him we had to keep moving. Then all of a sudden, we were not able to see anything in front of us. I knew then we were in big trouble, in fact doomed.

I told Ernie to hold on to me and not let go no matter what. My face was so cold but I was still putting up a fight struggling through the snow. Ernie was barely moving and then he started to cry. I told him to hang in there. We were both still moving but then it became completely dark.

I did not want to believe that we were lost and that we just could not move anymore. The path was no longer a path for us, so we huddled together and shivered. I figured if we didn’t move, someone would come to our rescue, but no one came. I sat there with Ernie and started to pray. I was telling the Creator that I was too young to go, and I prayed. 

"please Creator, help me and Ernie to get home, I promise that I would be a good boy and listen to my Aunt.” 

Ernie just kept quiet.

After I was finished I noticed this tiny little light in front of us.  It looked foggy at first but then the light was getting closer and closer. When it came close enough, I noticed it was not a man but a little boy that was causing the light. You could not see his face. He told us that he would see that we found our way through the storm. He pointed us toward the village. Then the little boy told me to call out to Duke. I yelled his name really hard.


I was answered by his bark. I told Ernie that Duke was coming.

“Do you hear him”

He said no. I asked him if  he could see the little boy? He answered  yes and then he said he could hear Duke. The little boy said we must wait for Duke and then he must go. When Duke arrived at my side, I was glad. Ernie was so glad that he started to pet Duke. Before I could thank the little boy, he was gone.

Ernie asked me “where did he go?”

I told him “I guess he had to go.”

Once again, I told Ernie that we must go.  I grabbed Duke’s collar and I had Ernie hold onto me as we struggled through the snow and wind. Ernie and I continued the journey home. Duke kept pulling us towards the village, and as we got closer I could see some lights. I did not let go of Duke until I knew that we were really close.

When we arrived in the village we headed toward towards the village centre.  I tell you, it felt so good.  My hands, feet and ears began to thaw out. Ernie was warming up but was still shaking. We were not the only ones in the centre; there were other people already there.

 Apparently they were in search of our whereabouts. The people from the village asked us where we were and how did we wind up in the storm. I could not answer them. I had my head down. I asked one of the people to let Duke in and they said

“There is no dog around.”

 I thought maybe Duke went on home.  Later my Aunt walked into the centre and she grabbed a hold of me. Ernie’s mother and father grabbed him when they saw him also. They asked if we were alright and I said 

" I just want to go home."

The police called off the search and community members all went home. When I arrived home with my aunt, I filled my frozen belly with nice hot rabbit soup and scone. My other cousins were glad to see me and the next thing you know I fell asleep on the couch.

The next morning I went outside to check on Duke and there he was just wagging his tail. I went over to give him a hug. My Aunt came outside too and started to take down some of the clothes off the line. They were all stiff like cardboard. She told me to not go very far. She asked me how I was able to get through the storm. It was impossible for anyone to see where they were going. I told her that it was the little boy that had shown me the way and that it was the little boy who had told me to call out for Duke. I told her that I did, and he came and led us to the village. My Aunt was silent, so I asked her

“what’s wrong?”

There was no response she was very quiet.  Later she told me that the little boy I saw was probably the missing boy in the snowstorm many years ago. I told my Aunt that it must have been him who saved Ernie and I. My aunt told me that I should not  mention this to anyone because it might upset the family. I did what she wanted.

That evening when I had to go outside to the outhouse I was not afraid. So when I heard the footsteps and Duke was not with me, I called to the spirit and I thanked him for saving our lives and for showing us the way home. To this day, I am no longer afraid and I do not get the willies anymore. That noise at the outhouse I believe was the 
spirit of the missing little boy and he taught me not to be afraid anymore.

Copyright 2007                                                                             

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